Hydraulic Fracturing

Santos has been fracking wells in Australia safely for almost 50 years. 

Most of these wells have been conventional oil and gas wells.

What is Hydraulic Fracturing

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is used to increase the flow of oil or natural gas from a well. It has been used safely around the world since 1949 in millions of wells around the world.

Santos has used fracking to produce oil and gas in South Australia and Queensland for nearly 50 years. Hydraulic fracturing was first used in the NT in 1967 and the practice has since been used consistently since the early 1980s to enhance oil and gas recovery. 

Without the recent and significant technological advances made in drilling and hydraulic fracturing, a portion of the natural gas found in coal seams would be uneconomic and unrecoverable. 

Click here to read a factsheet about hydraulic fracturing that was used to engage community and industry in the NT in July 2017. 

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How does hydraulic fracturing work?

A well is drilled into an underground layer that contains oil or gas. The well is lined with steel and concrete to ensure oil or gas bearing layers and any hydrocarbons are isolated from shallow strata, such as aquifers.

Fluid is pumped into the layer containing oil or gas at high pressure. The pressure of the fluid fractures the layer to produce tiny cracks. The fluid contains sand to hold open the tiny cracks. This creates pathways for oil or gas to flow more easily, increasing the productivity of the well.

Some fluid is pumped back to surface and stored in specially designed dams or tanks. The fluid is then reused in hydraulic fracturing, treated or disposed at an approved facility.

Why do you need to use fracking?

Fracking enables extraction of oil and gas trapped in tight underground layers that were not previously accessible. In this way, the increased use of fracking is providing more energy to meet growing global demand and keep prices reasonable for consumers.

Because fracking increases the flow from a well, it also means fewer wells need to be drilled to deliver the same amount of oil or natural gas. This is good news for landholders and for the environment.

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How is underground water protected?

The gas bearing geological layers are over 1,000 metres below fresh water aquifers, with intervening impermeable rock layers providing a natural barrier. Layers of steel casing and cement provide a barrier between the well and any aquifers penetrated.
This ensures no movement of fracturing fluid into aquifers.

In the NT for example, resource companies actively exploring in the Beetaloo Basin are entering into an agreement with the CSIRO to establish a coordinated research approach into the methods and establishment of baseline values of groundwater. The work program is intended to understand and quantify the baseline levels of gas and water quality within the study area.

What’s in fracking fluid?

Fracking fluid is 99 per cent water and sand. A very small percentage of chemicals are also used to reduce friction, remove bacteria, dissolve some minerals and improve the transportation of sand.

The chemicals are not unique to the oil and gas industry and are found in many household products such as toothpaste, baked goods, ice cream, food additives, detergents and soap.